Mother loses discrimination challenge against housing association and council

A single mother in north London has lost a High Court discrimination claim against a housing association which prioritises Orthodox Jews.

The mother-of-four, known only as Z, claimed that the Agudas Israel Housing Association (AIHA) and Hackney Council unlawfully discriminated against her and her family.

But AIHA – which describes its objective as being “primarily for the benefit of the Orthodox Jewish community” – argued that its policy was proportionate.

Giving judgment in London on Monday, Lord Justice Lindblom and Sir Kenneth Parker dismissed the claim, finding that the “particular need of Orthodox Jews for larger accommodation” and the “real and substantial” disadvantages they faced justified AIHA’s policy.

The judges ruled: “If AIHA were to allocate any of its properties to non-members, it would seriously dilute the number of properties available to Orthodox Jews, and would fundamentally undermine its charitable objective of giving ‘primary’ position … to Orthodox Jews.”

An application for permission to appeal against the ruling, or for a “leapfrog” appeal to the Supreme Court, was also refused.

The judges noted that Z has lived in Stamford Hill all her life and wants to stay in the area to be near her mother, whose “essential support” she relies on with her children, and her eldest son’s specialist school.

She is currently living in temporary housing, where she has been since September 2017, and is “struggling to meet (her children’s) needs in the temporary accommodation due to its lack of essential amenities”, the judgment said.

It added that Z required a four-bedroom property as her two sons “must be kept separate due to their autism”, and that – between 2017 and 2018 – “AIHA let 100% of all four-bedroom properties in Stamford Hill and 50% of four-bedroom properties in the borough”.

At a hearing in November, her barrister Ian Wise QC said that the “inevitable and actual consequence” of AIHA’s policy was that “families with lesser housing needs than the claimants are allocated good quality, modern properties directly at the claimants’ expense”.

But the High Court found that “the disadvantages faced by Orthodox Jews” – including “very high levels of poverty and deprivation” and “the widespread and increasing overt anti-Semitism in our society” – were “both real and substantial”.

It concluded that “AIHA’s arrangements are proportionate in addressing the needs and disadvantages of the Orthodox Jewish community”.

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